Hair Raising and Hair Razing Experiences Abroad

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You know it’s a disaster when you’d rather wear a paper bag over your head.

Getting a hair cut should be a fairly simple procedure and yet I have found it to be one of the lesser known, but very real challenges of expat life.  Plenty of expat blogs cover all the obvious, big ticket hurdles to being a successful and happy expat: emotional resilliance, repatriation, culture shock, depression, leaving well etc.  But there are plenty of lesser known hurdles we face as we ricochet around the globe and getting a decent haircut is firmly on that list.

Whether I’ve asked  for ‘a trim’ or ‘the same but shorter’ or shown a picture from a magazine or a photograph of my own hair I seem to have had more than my fair share of awful expat haircuts than I care to mention.  Here are a few of my lowlights…. Continue reading

The Princess and The Fish

 

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Photo Taken circa January 2006 – on the coast close to Lagos, Nigeria

 

The Princess and The Fish is what I’ve always called this photograph.  I took it almost 11 years ago on a slim spit of beach wedged between the quiet creek and the wide Atlantic Ocean just a short boat ride along the coast from Lagos, Nigeria one lazy Sunday afternoon.

This girl was seemingly the leader of her ‘gang’ of beach roaming children.  She was older than the others and was insistent that I photographed her and her friends.  As I snapped the first picture, the one of her alone, she unexpectedly blew into the fishes’ mouth to make it puff up.  She was pleased to show me her party trick and laughed gleefully at my surprise.

Continue reading

Knocked up Abroad Again

No, it’s not that sort of announcement.  I’m not expecting, but once upon a moonshine I was and hopefully you will soon be able read about the slightly less conventional road to parenthood that we travelled in Lagos, Nigeria in an actual book.

Following on from Lisa Ferland’s anthology Knocked up Abroad, a second book, Knocked up Abroad Again is in the imminent works and I’m excited to have contributed a chapter.

Winging it in West Africa is my account of being an expectant-and-then-new mother in Lagos and trying to circumnavigate tropical diseases (a phase of shoe licking did nothing to quell my anxiety), field ‘helpful’ parenting tips from our steward Augustine and assess the perils of being pregnant in a Lagos traffic jam.

Parenthood is daunting enough, but hurl cultural conundrums, language barriers of life overseas and in my case, the utter craziness that life in Lagos hurls at you on an hourly basis and you end up with a melting pot of fascinating stories.  In this case 26 stories set in 25 different countries contributed by an interesting and resilient group of expat women.

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Moving to Lagos? Get the Lowdown on the Lingo. (Part II)

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As promised, here is Part II of my A-Z of Lagos Lingo.  If you haven’t read Part I yet, click here.

N-Z of Lagos Lingo

N is for NEPA plc:  The Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHC or PHCN) used to be called the National Electric Power Authority (NEPA plc).  Due to the frequent power outages, it was more commonly referred to as:                                                                                 N.ever E.ver P.ower A.vailable, p.lease l.ight c.andle.

N is also for Naira:  Nigeria’s currency…and is for Naija:  A slang name for Nigeria   …and for Nollywood – I’ll let you work that one out for yourself.

O is for Oyinbo:  (I’ve also seen this spelled oyibo) Literally it means peeled skin.  If you are a white person, you will probably hear this often, usually to get your attention (yes, you are the peeled skin person) or as an informal greeting.

O is a popular letter, it is also for: Continue reading

Moving to Lagos? You need to know the lowdown on the lingo.

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Lagos Lingo:  D is for Danfo

 

The official language of Nigeria, the language of business and commerce, the common language for Igbos, Yorubas, Hausas and other tribes to communicate with one another is English. Whether you are a native English speaker, or like many expats have English as a second (or impressive third or even forth) language, it sounds like one less thing to worry about when moving to Nigeria.

However, even when more standardised English is spoken (and a lot of the time it will be the less comprehensible pidgin English that you hear around you), there are various words and phrases that are likely to confuse, amuse or befuddle you from the moment you step off the plane.  You might figure them out easily, you might not.  Let me help by decoding a little bit of Lagos Lingo for you.

A is for Area Boy:  A local hoodlum.  Watch out, watch out if you are told the area boys are about.

B is for Breaking Plates:  Plates that are not plastic.  i.e. the regular kind of porcelain plates that most expats over the age of 5 would eat from. Continue reading

Alarmed

We spent five years living in Lagos, Nigeria. To date, I’ve barely touched on our time there. It’s a chaotic and often frustrating place to live and it’s difficult to know where to start as there are so many memories and mishaps to dust off.  As a first taster, I’m sharing one of the many (but far from the most) frustrating vignettes with you.

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This is a smoke alarm.  I think it’s used for catching mosquitos.  No?

The estate electrician phoned one day to tell me that he was coming to install smoke alarms. I was confused as we already had plenty thoroughly our apartment.

Me:                        We already have smoke alarms.

Electrician:          Yes, I am coming to put smoke alarms.

Me:                        Where are you going to put them? Why are you going to put smoke                                                        alarms? What’s wrong with the ones we have? Continue reading